MONEY TALK: What Labour forgot to take on honeymoon
Sunday 10 August 1997
In popular folklore the election of a Labour government is a serious negative for savers and investors. In practice, under New Labour we have had a booming stock market, improving savings deals and a pound that has funded a reinvasion of foreign beaches by holidaymaking Brits. All good news - or so the spin doctors might like it to be spun at the end of the traditional 100-day honeymoon period.
In fact, life is already a lot less rosy for some, namely mortgage borrowers, who after last week's base-rate rise to 7 per cent now face a fourth mortgage- rate rise to near 8.5 per cent. On a pounds 50,000 mortgage that means another pounds 45 a month since Labour got into power. But for me a bigger gripe about Labour's performance is that it has failed to get its teeth into important areas of concern to financial consumers. And in some cases what it has said has been singularly unhelpful. With PEPs we simply don't know what the Government intends in two years' time when its mooted Individual Savings Account (ISA) is up and running. Will it scrap PEPS? If that is the plan, is it worth taking them out any more, or would savers be better-off waiting? The uncertainty, which the regulators now require PEP and investment companies to point out to potential investors, can only have the effect of putting people off saving: surely not what Labour intended.
Similarly there is still little detail on Labour's promised new low-cost pensions. The result is that many of those people thinking they really should sort out their pension will just put off the decision again, and risk being poorer as a result.
Elsewhere, last week's announcement that Labour is to look at ways of speeding up the housebuying process is welcome, but, paradoxically, the study exercise it is undertaking looks unlikely to result in quick changes - it won't even finish until next June. Meanwhile, gazumping has been back in London for more than a year - something I would have expected Labour's new yuppie MPs to have known - and, as buyers in the capital can affirm, estate agents are beyond redemption. I could go on. Help the Aged, the charity, has already become sufficiently frustrated at the lack of progress on a framework for the funding of long-term care for the old to write an open letter to the Government.
Financial consumers might have expected more from the past three months. They didn't get the stock-market crash they feared, but there is every prospect of one in the next quarter; and, if anything, mortgages will go even higher. The hope is that there'll also be good news in the form of solid progress elsewhere.
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